“I need to be alone” is, as my friend Day pointed out, an incredibly hackneyed thing to say and only really means something when you’re 15 and even then you only say it because you probably had somebody else say it to you and you're 15 so you’re like, “yeah I guess that makes sense.” But it doesn’t really have any meaning in our lives as adults. It’s vague and it just sounds like an excuse to fuck other people. So last night I had a moment of clarity while running for the train about what “being alone” really means for me in this moment: being alone means having no one to hurt.
Because here’s the thing, this change came upon me like a hurricane or a train or labor. It was physical before it was cognitive, and I just knew I needed to go before I knew why. So I guess all this talk is my brain trying to catch up to my choices. But so I literally feel like I am going to erupt any day now, and I don’t know with what or how, but I wanted to get myself out of my relationship and into a big open field where if I explode nobody gets hurt too badly. Or maybe it’s more like I’m about to have horrible diarreah and I’m just trying to get to a bathroom stat so I don’t stink up the subway car.
Okay so I never really gave a shit about Romeo and Juliet. I never loved the play, I never cared about the characters much. Whatever. It was always like, if you wanna fuck so bad, then go fuck and stop talking about it. Why is everybody talking so much! I mean, I know it’s Shakespeare but come on son!
So because I feel like I am having a second adolesence I just remembered something about being a teenager. When you are 15, and in love for the first time, a huge part of what makes first love qualitatively different from all the other loves that comes after it, is for the first time we are experiencing ourselves in love. You cannot believe feelings of this scope and intensity are pumping through your own small body. So you’re as in love with you’re own body and your own heart because you’re absolutely astonished by what they are capable of! But part of being a teenager is flexing that power. Testing it. And I think that's why she talks so damn much. Because over, and over again she is incredible to herself because she is not the self she once knew anymore. She is actually feeling herself bloom. So of course she can't shut up about it! Talking, thinking, is what makes the machine whir on and on, choice after choice after choice into the unknown future.
So I think I am having another one of those moments of body-and-feelings-ahead-of-my-brain growth. So everything I experience feels somewhat astonishing because...it is mine. And of course this is selfish and totally narcissistic. Maybe growth always is. But the alternative feels much more dangerous. If this is a mistake, I need to make it for myself. I can’t take anybody else word for it anymore. Growth, at least this particular kind, is inherently selfish. Which sucks. But in this moment it honestly feels non-negotiable, even for a master negotiator like myself. And that kind of, I don’t know, certitude is both completely unfamiliar to me and also surprisingly comforting.
(3) The Machiavellian Lover
So my grandfather, Donald Pearce, who seems to be on my mind today, studied under W.H. Auden at University of Michigan in 1941. In his (my grampy's) book, Para/Worlds, he has a chapter about a course he took with Auden that fall. Auden wouldn't allow his students to take notes--what you remember is what was important, was his thinking. But so this is something my grandfather remembered. Because it was important. It's from a lecture Auden was giving on Romantic Love. This passage makes hella sense to me.
"Romantic love involves "mirroring." The Romantic Lover , "like most other people, is a narcissist...but to an unusual degree...He nurtures in fantasy an herioic image of his own uniqueness...and it is the unwelcome role of others...'the world'...to disenchange and revise this image...so that he may become a useful member of society. Now if two such persons meet and fall in love which is very likely, each proceeds to validate the other's heroic self-image which has routinely been denied by the rest of the world: "You are every bit as exceptional as you have always held yourself to be!"
Each in this way finds in the other the heavenly verifier of his or her own uniqueness. The flood of mutual gratitude produced by these revelations is the immediate goal of the relationship. Now stage two commences: 'the Barrier.' For the intoxicant to remain effective it is essential that the relationship not change into something else...dwindle, for instance, into friendship or into domestic love, married love, with its ties to the community. No, something must come between the lovers, preventing their union. One of them is already married. Or an interfamily fued has erected a wall between them. Or he has professional obligations that supervene. Should no objective barrier be present, the lovers must supply it."
This thought is fascinating to me in terms of the way I have approached romantic love for, um, ever. I have an almost impossible time hearing somebody say they are interested in me without this crafty light going on in my brain, and once that light is on I will play out a whole psychological romance with the person, even if I'm not actually that into them! And while I'll never cheat on my boyfriend, I'll still create an emotionally impossible situation. And I think I do all of this simply in order to get that "flood of gratitude," that, "heavenly verifier of my own uniqueness."
Which is fucking scary to think about. Like. Am I really that insecure. I guess so.
I think I've never really learned how to do it for myself. Which is why I keep saying I need to be selfish before I can be generous. Max thinks I can do this in a relationship but I don't think I can. Until I learn to do some fundamental kind of psychological weight-bearing on my own, my participation in any relationship is going to be guarded. So because everybody, right, everybody has those those corner-of-the-poster parts of their soul that are inclined to curl up into safety. And for me that safety has been Max's love. But until I learn to support my own insides I will always feel like a scavenger in my own garden. And I'm just done with that. Done!